2013-10-14 - Love and Motorcycles! Secret identities revealed
|Love and Motorcycles! Secret identities revealed|
Circle Sakura Beat! sells their latest release at a minor convention in Akiba. Identities are revealed. Secrets are shared.
Akihabara Electric Town
| OOC - IC Date:|
10/14/2013 - 10/01/2013 (Backdated)
Akihabara, home of cartooning, is a place where comics markets are simply a fact of life. They're not around all the time, but for today, a number of amateur mangaka have assembled on the outskirts of Electric Town for a minor convention, attempting to attract readers with hand-drawn posters and cheap sketch commissions. Circle Sakura Beat! is one such amateur stand, selling a compilation of Love and Motorcycles, a slice of life manga about a bosozoku with a heart of gold and his high-society girlfriend. It's manned by Ran, a bubbly cyan-haired girl with a ponytail and one of the members of the Ohtori Manga Club, who makes time to talk with each person who comes to her booth. Which is not many, so that's not difficult.
Sakuyo is not at the booth. She's somewhere around here, her street fashion blending her in with the occasional cosplay weirdos, keeping an eye on things from a distance.
The noisy crush of Akihabara might not be a place one would expect Madoka Kaname to venture alone, much less in a cute, flowing white sundress and pink denim jacket! And yet, here she is -- only one thing could have gotten her to do it, therefore. The thing that drives her to extreme measures like braving the wide world all by her lonesome self.
Responsibility, that craved, coveted intangible. To feel like she's doing something worthwhile for someone else... that's the only thing that makes her feel alive.
Whoever put her up to this has created a monster, or at least a girl on a Mission. The soles of her little pink boots make firm slapping sounds on the sidewalk as she makes her way along. And, to her eternal, unchanging surprise, she finds that once she's put herself out there, she's actually enjoying herself -- with increasing confidence and the hint of a brilliant inner smile poised in the corners of her mouth, she pokes her head in at various booths and tables. Eventually she arrives at the Ohtori Manga Club's.
"Ah, um," she starts, in her meek, stumbling way. "...hi?" A flush paints her cheeks, as she realizes that she recognizes Ran from school, but has never been properly introduced and therefore does not know her name. This is fairly quickly admitted. "I-I think I've seen you at school... I'm Madoka Kaname!"
She bobs a little bow of respectful greeting, twintails bouncing enthusiastically.
Naota is also here and likewise not at a booth. Not that he wouldn't like to have a booth, but... no. Just no. Instead he's wandering the market in what he no doubt thinks are in cognito clothes: a sports jacket and his hair inexpertly stuffed into an Angels baseball cap. Every so often he stops at one booth or another: mostly the typical shonen fodder, where he'll browse for a moment but usually leave without picking anything up. But every so often he stops, seemingly at random, at a stand offering something in the shojo vein, where he'll buy a volume 'for his sister.' Circle Sakura Beat! is the latest such booth, one that he hasn't seen before. He picks up a volume, opens it up to check the art and the quality of the writing, then tries to get the attention of Ran. "E-excuse me," he says, coughing and attempting nonchalance. "How much?" It's about then that he sees Madoka: his eyes widen a little for a moment and then he looks away quickly, not wanting to be seen staring.
"Hmm?" Ran looks up from her boredom, and spreads a wide smile across her face. "Hello! Oh, you're an Ohtori student! And - hello to you, too!" She bows her head to Naota. Not the usual type that stops by the booth, but Ran isn't judgmental. "I'm Ran Hisakawa. What brings you all the way out here, Kaname-san? Are you interested in the work?" She holds up one of the copies for sale. "Love and Motorcycles is Sakura Beat!'s latest work. It's a thousand yen for a copy, we wanted to make it more affordable but production costs are hard for us. It's funny, it's sentimental and you might cry! That's the sales pitch I memorized. How did I do?" She grins.
Madoka hasn't bought anything anywhere quite yet, but she stared hungrily at no few selections of shoujo manga on her way to this booth -- especially that of the magical girl variety. Here and now, she blushes even more deeply upon the realization that she may have interrupted a sale between Ran and Naota, and takes a shuffling step back, gently bumping into some random passerby in the progress. Any notice of Naota's staring is therefore hopelessly unlikely.
A flurry of heartfelt, timid apologies later, and her attention is back on the booth, just in time to get the second half of the introductions. "Nice to meet you, Hisakawa-san!" She giggles lightly at the commentary, her eyes sparkling with admiration; she's not sure she could do half so well. "It was really good! You've got me all excited, I'm a big fan of Sakura Beat's work." There's some history here: originally Sayaka had her picking up these manga to deliver to yet another friend, but somewhere along the way Madoka started reading them avidly pre-delivery.
"Y-you did good. Are you the writer? Penciler?" He fishes into his jacket for his wallet and for the requisite moneys, handing Ran a few bills. He looks like he's ready to just wander off, eager to keep on the move, but when he looks up he spots a familiar face watching the booth and blinks a few times. To Ran, he asks, indicating Sakuyo with a nod of the head, "Is she with you?"
"Thank you! We really appreciate it," Ran says to Madoka, taking the credit happily. But then Naota has to spoil it, and Ran admits, "Actually, sales rep." She usually lets people assume she's the author, but she doesn't like to outright lie! "Sakura Beat! is just one person, really. She likes to keep her privacy - between you and me I think she's a little embarrassed! - but she's standing right behind me, isn't she?"
Sakuyo puts a hand tightly on Ran's shoulder, having come up quietly from behind in the midst of the crowd to check on the booth. She smiles through grit teeth. "They wouldn't have known for sure if you didn't say that last part, Hisakawa-chan." Here she stands, in a white frilled shirt, mint green vest and torn jeans: Izumi-hime, the yakuza princess of Ohtori's grade 9, looking stormy as usual, though the expression softens when she looks over the two readers at the booth. "Uneme... kun," she says, hesitating a little on the honorific. She pauses, and then gives a nod. "And... Kaname-san." She's vaguely familiar with Madoka - she may have stepped in to protect her honor from some of Ohtori's more predatory girls, probably in ways that left them bleeding. She clears her throat, and then gives a bow. "Thank you for your patronage."
Madoka hasn't pulled her wallet /quite/ yet, allowing Naota's transaction to finish first. She listens earnestly to Ran explain the story, and her eyes are like mirrors as Sakuyo comes up slowly behind her. "Izumi-senpai!" she squeals happily -- once in the Madoka Good Books, always in the Madoka Good Books. "I had no idea you were Sakura Beat! Wow, you're so /cool/." The bow is returned, with interest.
No matter how fast it is in coming, the adoration is always sincere. She glows with eager interest as she looks to the slightly older girl's fashion with equal admiration. Sakuyo had her at the frilly white artist's shirt. Adjusting her denim jacket a bit self-consciously by yanking down on the short, rib-level hem, she now produces her moneys. For being the daughter of a high-powered executive, it looks pretty threadbare and empty; apparently the trickle down system is not implemented in the Kaname household. "I've always wondered, um... do you ride a lot of motorcycles? Papa says the drawings are always super realistic."
Yes, Tomohisa Kaname is also a fan of Sakura Beat!, and sometimes borrows his daughter's manga for a good long read after the tomatoes are trimmed, Mama and Madoka are out the door and Tatsuya is fed.
See, now this he wasn't expecting. Naota blinks a few times, then bows in return. "It's nice to see you again too, Izumi-san. I didn't know you drew to- that you drew." The volume goes in a bag which he's carrying under his jacket. He looks at the three. "Do you all go to the same school, then?" He bows. "I'm Naota Uneme, from Juuban."
Sakuyo shifts awkwardly to the side a bit. Ever since she stepped in for Kaname-san, she's been like this, and Sakuyo just doesn't know how to handle it. Fear she's used to. Even friendship... she's dealt with that. Adoration? How is she supposed to deal with that? Flip her hair around and say something cocky? Her hair's too short for that.
"Super-realistic," Izumi repeats, a little taken aback at the comment. "No, I don't ride. I've seen enough of them, though..." She doesn't explain that any further. "Listen, don't go spreading this around, okay? People find out and I'll never hear the end of it. I've got a reputation to maintain. But... but thanks," she mumbles. To think that she's appreciated that much... she always thought Sakura Punch! was just a dead-end that got read by a handful of people and tossed away.
"Ohtori," she answers Naota, and there's a tone of disdain in her voice. But it might not be for the lesser sister, because when she follows it up with, "Juuban's a nice school," there's no tone of condescension.
"Nice to meet you!" Madoka repeats cheerfully, fixing her friendly gaze on Naota fully for the first time, now that they aren't competitors for someone's attention. Since she's already given her name, she doesn't repeat it, but she does bow for about the fourth time in the last two minutes. It's a good thing those phenomenally adorable red ribbons are tied tightly, or her cotton candy-pink hair would be /everywhere/.
"Juuban is a /great/ school. I'm so excited about the sports festival being there this year! The Gardening Club is going to make garlands to give to all the winners. And everyone else, too, hehe... I thought it was sad, so I made sure we're making enough for everyone!" Secretly, she kind of wishes she attended Juuban; much less pressure, socially and academically. It wouldn't actually solve her problems, though, which are entirely independent of location, given that she carries them around in her heart.
That bubble of excitement having burst out of her, she bends an ear to Sakuyo in a slightly more subdued fashion. "I'm happy to keep your secret, but... why would you ever want to hide how great you are?" She's genuinely confused, one imagines, given her bewildered tone and expression. "Sakura Beat! brings romance into lots of peoples' lives... I'm sure I'm not the only girl who'd like to thank you!"
"It's nice to meet you too, Kaname-san." She certainly is friendly! "I'm looking forward to the festival too. We're hoping to be able to have an unofficial game with the other two baseball teams this year. Not that I'm in the main line-up or anything." It'll be fun to watch, one way or the other. He chimes in when Madoka asks her question, although his tone suggests it's something that's coming from him almost unbidden, a thought skipping his volition and just waltzing out his mouth. "Because she doesn't want people to get the wrong image of her. When people see you one way, it can make things easier, even if that's not all of who you are." He looks sheepish all of a sudden, tapping his index fingers together. "I mean, that's what I'd guess. I don't want to put words in your mouth, Izumi-san."
Izumi cracks a small smile at Madoka's gesture of benevolence for the sports festival. Sweet girl. She glances then over to Naota, and quietly raises a brow. That kind of answer... maybe makes her second-guess herself. The wrong image of her...?
"...because Ohtori girls are sharks," she settles on as an answer. "When they smell blood in the water, they fall on you. If you want to stay afloat you need to bite back. And I don't feel like beating the respect into people all over again. I already had to do it once." She falls quiet, for awhile, and glances off in the distance. "Besides," she says, a little lower. "Who wants to know that the love in their heart was brought to them by Izumi-hime?" She's punched people for calling her that, before - it's not a nickname she likes, not her being arrogant. It's a mark of shame. It's as close as she'll get to admitting that the rumors about her are true - she's a gangster girl raised out of the gutter. "Let them imagine. It's better that way."
Madoka studies Naota more thoughtfully as he gives his answer; apparently she's seriously chewing on his food for thought, rather than just letting it waft in one ear and out the other. It's a moderate change of pace for her, for sure, and clear demonstration that she has more than one setting. She nods firmly in quiet understanding when he's done.
So too does her intent listening, and gaze, drift to Sakuyo as she adds her own piece; the senpai's smile teased her own out of the corners of her mouth and into full bloom, in return. It doesn't even wilt, either, when the Yakuza Princess starts to put herself down -- rather, it flowers more strongly and firmly than ever.
"I already promised to keep your secret, but anyway... you being the author is better than /my/ wildest imagination," she admits, simply, softly, gently. Then she holds out the manga she just bought. "Please, do you think I could get an autograph from Sakura Beat! ?"
Naota blanches a little: Sakuyo's description is rather frank and mildly terrifying. But she's a girl, so clearly she knows what she's talking about. Also, hime? What's that all about. Either way, he nods. "I won't tell anybody either. Not that I think we know too many people in common anyway." He regards Madoka again, this time less furtively. "What year are you?" he asks, realizing that he has no idea. She IS quite tiny, after all, but some girls are lucky like that.
There's the fear. Sakuyo is used to that fear in Naota's eyes; but all the same, she can't help but feel a little disappointed. "Thanks," she says to Naota; and then to Madoka, she cracks that small smile again. "You're really something, aren't you, Kaname-san. Sure." She looks down, around, and then takes a few steps off to the side and plucks the brush pen out of another artist's hand. "I'm borrowing this," she says, and reaches out to accept the purchased manga. While Naota and Madoka talk amongst themselves, she signs it, after which she hands it back: 'Madoka-chan, use your smile to light up the world. Sakura Beat!'
"You'd be surprised, Uneme-san... with the Sister Schools program, we probably know more of the same people than you might think! I'm second-year middle, what about you?" Madoka finishes offhandedly, completely and entirely at odds with her appearance. She looks like maybe fifth or sixth form elementary, tops. Sakura Kinomoto is taller than she, and Nanoha Takamachi will probably lap her before long.
She doesn't find it lucky at all, but the grass is always greener on the side of the fence that can actually reach the top shelf where the cookies are.
Accepting the manga gratefully, she looks down at it, pinkens to put the hue of her hair to shame, and clutches it to her chest, right over her heart, like it's the most precious thing in the world. "Th-thank you, Izumi-senpai, Sakura-Beat-sama!" The suffix is not even ironic; such is the due of one's fans.
"I-I understand if you're too busy, or if it would ruin your image, but, um, my birthday is on October 3rd and I'm... having a party? I'd be really honored if you would come, not as Sakura Beat!, of course, unless you wanted to come in, uh, disguise..." Now /that's/ a manga plot, yikes. She doesn't seem wildly eager for such shenanigans, fortunately, it just kind of popped to the top of her mind, then out of her mouth. "You're welcome, too, Uneme-san! It's tradition to invite new friends!" Apparently he's a new friend -- congratulations!
"First-year middle, Kaname-senpai," he says with a little grin. He's not THAT surprised, all things considered: he's at that age where some girls have shot up like dandelions while most of the boys are still not quite coming into their own. It's an odd time, being thirteen. He does blink at her offer, though. "Y-your birthday?" He blushes, but she's just so SINCERE about everything. "W-well, sure. I'd be glad to come. I might need to be looking after my little sister that day, though: is it all right if I bring her? She's seven and very well-behaved." This time his smile is unforced, genuine and not the least bit sheepish. Akari is the best little sister.
Sakuyo averts her gaze, unable to help the smile on her face from growing. She's never even really been called Sakura Beat except by her fellow members of the Manga Club, and there it's a joke - a friendly joke, one she's as comfortable with as she'll get, but nothing compared to the feeling of having... well, a /fan/. A wholeheartedly devoted fan, kinder than anyone she could imagine. "It's nothing," she says.
And then she's... invited to her fan's birthday party?? The thought of coming in disguise creates an image in her head of stepping in wearing fake nose-and-mustache glasses and a trenchcoat, and she suppresses her reaction to the thought. "That's... very kind of you, Kaname-san," she says. She clears her throat again, and glances away. "I'll... yes. Yes, I'll come." The thought of saying no to Madoka doesn't even enter her mind. The girl is just too nice; how could she help but give her everything she asks for?
So much pure joy is infused into a single syllable that it's hard to believe that it isn't going to cause a happiness event horizon to form.
"Your sister can come..." Madoka turns mock-stern, though her poker face leaves much to be desired, trembling with internal giggles, "...but only if she likes tea and cake!"
Glancing back down at the manga she's clutching so tenderly, she cocks her head to the side, briefly processing the reality that she bought this for someone else. After a moment, she lets it go -- how much cooler of a favor will it be, given the autograph?
"It's going to be at the Seaside Park at 5pm on October 3rd! After school, of course..." Alas for birthdays falling on school days; but such is life.
Somewhere, even in hypermodern Akihabara, a clock chimes. It might be an electronic, musical sound, one that pays homage deliberately to a certain famous anime, but even so.
"The time -- oh no! I have to run -- it was really nice to meet you again, and thanks for the autograph!"
Kicking up her heels, pigtails flying, the pink and white girl disappears into the crowd.
Poor Madoka; if she had just asked, Sakuyo would have given her another copy to give to Sayaka.
"I'll be there," Sakuyo says, mentally pencilling in the date. It's not like she had anywhere to be anyway except fighting monsters - and while intellectualy she knows otherwise, she can't help but feel that showing up to Madoka's party is just more important than that. There will be more monsters. "Goodbye, Madoka-chan!" Sakuyo calls, slipping up and forgetting to use her last name instead. She glances back to Naota. "I guess we'll be seeing more of each other after all," she says, regarding her with a nod.
Naota can't help but smile again, watching the girl go running off. "She seems nice. I'd like to have such an energetic, friendly girl as a senpai." He nods back to Sakuyo. "I thought we would. Have things been... I dunno, quiet, at least, for you? Puchi wants me to keep my eyes out, but I haven't been seeing anything."
Sakuyo glances to either side, while Ran innocently leans in closer from her position behind the booth. "I've got something to discuss. See you later, Hisakawa-chan," she says, leading Naota through the crowd to somewhere they can talk without prying ears, while Ran frowns and waves. (Is it to do with her family? They're up to something after all, aren't they...)
"Nothing since the last incident. I've been keeping my eye out. But things have been busy this month. It won't be long before there's something more." She glances sidelong at Naota. "Who's Puchi?" Cutesy name.
Naota blushes again. He seems to blush readily. "Sorry. I got into the habit of calling him that when mom and my sister are around. The Perfect Mirror Guardian. He's, well, I guess you could say he's the one who gave me the job to do." He pauses. "He's a hamster. Well, not really, but he pretends to be one." It's probably the least weird part of the whole affair, all things considered.
"And you trust him," Sakuyo says.
Naota blinks, then nods. "Well, yeah. When I met him... well, you've seen things, right? It wasn't like what we fought. It was a person, or it was wearing a person. Mirror demons, they're called. Puchi says they come to people who can't..." he hesitates. "Who can't accept what's true about themselves. They hurt people who are already hurting, make them hurt others." He shakes his head.
"Believe what you see," Sakuyo says. "I'm not questioning what you've run into. There's been all manner of monsters out there, not just the kind Puella Magi hunt. But... fairies, whatever you call them... well, be careful what you commit to. People lie. So do fairies."
"I really don't think Puchi would lie to me," Naota says, a dubious expression on his face. "He's really not that smart. I mean, he knows some things, but I think he knows them because he was told them. There was a wizard, long ago, and she told him to wait until the time was right." He sighs. "I don't really understand a lot of it, but I don't like bullies and these things are worse than bullies."
"Fine, then," Sakuyo says, folding her arms. "Use your judgment. All I'm saying is that I would have been better off if somebody had told me that. Don't drop your guard." She seems to have no interest in the strange tale of the creature's origin. "Is there anything I should know about these mirror demons?"
Would have been better off? What's that mean? He's about to ask but then she beats him to the punch. "You'd know them when you see them. They all wear masks - or ARE masks, I think - and that's the thing to focus on. You need to break it to free them. The people, I mean, not the demon." He pauses. "Puchi says they work for someone called the Three Shadows, but I haven't met them yet, so I don't know about that." He's starting to look sheepish again, and finally he breaks the ice himself. "I... uh, you weren't weirded out, were you?"
"I'm glad you told me," Sakuyo says. "I'll remember that." So the masked creatures are just riding innocent people - she's going to have to share that information to make sure people don't get hurt. Then the topic shifts. Sakuyo averts her gaze, looking around anywhere but at Naota himself. Herself? "Never saw anything like that before," she says. "Really not sure what to make of it." Is he a girl? Is she a boy? Or a boy who turns into a girl or... ahh, whatever.
"I'm not either. It's..." He looks around again. But really, if it's going to fail to stand out anywhere, it'll be here. People will probably just think it's a prop. He reaches into his jacket and pulls out the mirror he had with him before. It's small, something he can hold in one hand, and circular. "It's called a True Heart Mirror. Puchi made it for me with a part of another mirror. It was this broken piece of glass, right? And he just pushed it into me: I was scared, but it didn't hurt at all, like it wasn't really /entering/ me or anything." He shrugs: it's a difficult experience to explain. "And then this appeared." He blushes. "It... it reflects a truth. My truth."
"So your truth is a ballgown with a fire-spewing mace," Sakuyo says neutrally. She peers into the True Heart Mirror, curious what she's going to see - if anything at all. She's learned in the past years that there are a lot of these things, and many of them seem unique to particular people. Like her Soul Gem. "Remember what I said about fairies."
It's a mirror, like all mirrors, and so she'll see herself in it. Naota turns red, whether from embarrassment or irritation is hard to say. "My truth is that I'm a girl!" Thank God they're in a crowd, because the general murmur kept people from hearing that and he - she is looking stricken from saying it outloud. "I mean... I wish I was. I think I am. I don't know. It's all really weird." He puts the mirror away. "I don't know why I'm telling you this."
The truth is, Sakuyo doesn't know why she's telling her this either. Her expression doesn't betray this thought, or much of anything, as she stops in the crowd and listens to Naota's outburst. She is silent for a time, just looking at Naota. Then she resumes walking. "So what's the problem," she asks.
"Kaname-san is pretty, isn't she?" He says it casually, nonsequetorially, as he follows along her. "I mean, I can see that she's shy, but she just looks so perfect, right? I mean, not, like, the most beautiful girl in the world or anything," he clarifies, "but like she's being what suits her. Does that make sense?"
Sakuyo listens as she walks. She permits the nonsequitur, listening along as Naota tries to lead it back to what she's talking about. But when she asks whether it makes sense, Sakuyo says, again, "So what's the problem? Do you want to be a girl or not?"
She's quite straight-forward, which seems to be flummoxing Naota. "I wish I were like her. I want to be... I think about being a girl and I don't even know if I'd be able to make it work. As a /real/ girl, I mean. Not as a joke." He adjusts his jacket a little, pulling up the collar in a self-conscious manner. "I just want to be someone my little sister can look up to and not feel embarrassed about."
"Uneme-kun," Sakuyo says with a sigh, putting her hands in her pockets. "Uneme-chan. Whatever. Let me tell you something about life. Life is not fair. Life will give you a shit hand and expect you to pull out a win, and if you don't, it'll point and laugh at you when you fall. If you need something in life, you can't just wait for it. You need to take it. You need to take it by force. Be Uneme-chan. Be who you are. And if anybody thinks that's not all right, give them what's coming to them."
"I'm trying, but it's harder than it sounds. Thanks for listening to me, Izumi-san. I'm still not sure why I shared it but, well, you saw something people don't usually see. I'm gonna go home now, make some dinner for me an' my sister." He's about to walk away, but then he pauses and pulls out his cell phone. "Do you want to exchange addresses? In case something happens. I'm happy to back you up, I mean."
"Yeah. Well, good luck with that," Sakuyo says, stopping in the crowd and raising a hand in salutation. "Cell phone... eh. Yeah, sure. And you can call me if you have any trouble," she says, drawing out her phone. "But remember what I said. We might be on opposite ends one day. Don't take it personal."
Numbers are exchanged. "Do whatever you think you have to. I just don't like bullies." And with that, he's off.